As the giant orb in the sky begins to dip over Worthy Farm at the end of Glastonbury's first full day, Laura Foster follows the hordes up to Stone Circle.
Set on a hill with a vantage point over the site with its strands of twinkling lights, this is a place of congregation, celebration, and contemplation. In a festival full of mysticism and leylines, many would argue that the Stone Circle is the spiritual corner of Glastonbury.
It certainly feels that way tonight as we sit here, taking in the start of the most bonkers party of the year. Groups are huddled across the grass, people are sitting on the stones, campfires are starting to be lit. The occasional hiss of a helium balloon canister being released and the smell of weed wafting on the air gives some indication of the mild debauchery taking place.
Wednesday evening sees Stone Circle become the focal point of the festival, when a big pyramid-shaped bonfire is lit amidst a fireworks display. No start to the weekend is complete without a visit to this communal corner.
The circle itself may look as if the rocks have stood the test of time in this majestic field, battling through the centuries, but in fact the stones were only installed in 1992 by a magical travelling druid called Ivan.
We approach a man dressed like John Motson in a sheepskin coat. Geoff Rich, 34 from Weston-Super-Mare, is sitting on a chair nursing his beer. “I’ve been to Glastonbury about 12 times now. I don’t like it up here any more. All of this is irritating me now, bloody drummers,” he moaned as a gentleman with a rather fetching set of bagpipes started to drone next to us.
“Years ago I used to really like it. I’ve just turned into a cynic. The sun comes out from behind a cloud and everyone cheers, someone plays the bongos for ten minutes and everyone cheers. It’s just annoying.”
Oh dear, it looks like we’ve met the Victor Meldrew of the weekend. Moving on, a group of revellers releases a Chinese lantern gracefully into the sky and everyone cheers. Maybe he has a point.
But enough! In the words of Black Eyed Peas, Where Is the Love? We rediscover it in the mandolin sounds of William Wills, 25 from Wells, who knocks out a mean version of Mumford and Sons’ ‘The Cave’ that gets the surrounding crowd singing along.
“I was conceived at Glastonbury by the Avalon Stage and have been coming ever since,” the enthusiastic strummer shares.
“The Stone Circle is definitely the best place to come in the whole festival. It’s the heart and soul of Glastonbury. This place erupts, people spring out of the ground,” shares William, as a group of nymphs skip by.
Significantly heartened, we move on, towards the barrier at the top of the field behind which the bonfire stands.
A pink flare goes off, and it all suddenly feels a bit Mad Max as the bongo players spring back into life. A clutch of fire dancers suddenly move through the crowd, twirling their way up towards the bonfire.
A multicoloured paper phoenix is carried up the field, and sacrificed to the festival gods, before the bonfire and fireworks spark up, officially signalling the start of another fantastic year in the fields of Worthy Farm.
God bless Glastonbury and all who sail in her.